What have sausages got to do with conservation?

Yes, you read that correctly. What have sausages got to do with conservation?!

Well, all will be revealed as you read on. After a textile conservation workshop which we held for our volunteers (more about that in a future blog post) we had to put away the objects that we had cleaned.

On our ‘to do’ list were the curtains that had previously hung in the Breakfast Room. Having water come down into the room after a particularly wet week last year meant that lots of the objects inside were moved quickly to a temporary home. The curtains had now been cleaned and it was time to rest store them.

The curtains are being stored in the Muniments Room until they are rehung for the open season, and it is important to rest them correctly to prevent any damage/deterioration occurring.

Manouvering the curtains

Acid-free tissue is placed on tables to create a safe surface for the material to rest on.

The curtains are put into place

Gorgeous golden material

The material used for the Breakfast Room curtains were designed and made after the fire at Nostell Priory in the 1980s. However, it’s just as important to conserve this material as it is our textiles that are much older in date.

And the sausages that are mentioned in the title of this post?

Well, to ensure that no permanent creases appear in the material as it rests in storage, we make sausages. However, these sausages are made out of acid-free tissue paper rolled up into a loose tube, or sausage, shape.

Rolling the tissue paper sausages

Creases and folds create weak points in textiles, and make them vulnerable to splitting and damage. Adding the sausages create rounded creases and lessens the chance of damage.

Arranging the sausages

Folding the curtains over the tissue paper sausages

The curtains will stay here until the new season, when we will rehang the curtains and reattach the pelmets.

I’m feeling quite hungry now, after all this talk of sausages!

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How do you roll a carpet?

If you’ve visited Nostell Priory in the past year, you’ll know that visitors are able to walk around the Breakfast Room to get a better look at Brueghel’s The Procession to Calvary and the other paintings and furniture in the room. To enable this, we moved the original carpet in the Breakfast Room and replaced it with one which could take the wear and tear of thousands of visitors walking over it each week.

It’s the original carpet that we were cleaning and rolling up today. It’s a Fereghan fine wool small carpet with an all-over repeated stylized pattern in the centre with a hook motif, and a black ground border with stylized motifs in stepped compartments, and fringed ends. It dates to the 19th century.

Cleaning a carpet

First the carpet is cleaned using a low suction vacuum cleaner. A gauze is placed in between the carpet and the vacuum to prevent fibres being sucked inside the vacuum. Ideally we would lay the carpet on the floor, but as the Muniments Room had a dirty floor we put it on a table to ensure no dirt/pests accumulated on the carpet

Close up of a carpet

The carpet is then examined to identify the direction of the pile. Carpets should always be rolled in the direction of the pile, so that the fibres and material are not crushed.

A carpet with tissue paper on it

Acid-free tissue paper is placed on the carpet, so that when it is rolled up the carpet is protected from squashing against itself, the tissue will hopefully prevent deterioration, and it will make the carpet an unsuitable home for pests.

 

Rolling a carpet

More acid-free tissue paper is added as the carpet is gently rolled up at a steady pace. We have to make sure that the fringe of the carpet is not crushed in the process of rolling

Fully rolled carpet

A final covering of tissue paper is put over the top and tucked in at the ends to make it secure

Carpet in a store room

The fully rolled carpet in its temporary resting place until it is given a new, permanent location

There we have it, a rolled carpet now safely in storage. Job done!

Cleaning the Billiard Room Curtains

One of the tasks which is completed on a rolling programme (meaning it’s not done annually, but alternated with other items) is cleaning all of the curtains in the State Rooms.

This time it was the turn of the Billiard Room curtains! They are made from dyed cotton, and date from 1870-1930. There are three curtains in total, and comprise of floral printed ribbed cotton curtains and swagged pelmets held with rope tie-backs.

Cleaning the Billiard Room curtains

We have to put the scaffolding up to reach the top of the curtains as they are so high. This is a big job as we have to recruit many people (about eight) to help us move the billiard table so that we can put up the scaffolding, as the table is really heavy! We also take the opportunity to change the lightbulbs in the chandelier you can see, as usually we can’t reach it!

Cleaning the Billiard Room curtains

The curtains are cleaned with a low suction vacuum cleaner which has thin gauze tied around the nozze to stop material being sucked in. This gets rid of any dust which might harbour pests and contribute to the deterioration of the curtains.

Cleaning the Billiard Room Curtains

Talk about sitting down on the job!

Brightly coloured curtains

Usually the curtains are gathered up and tied back, but when we are cleaning them we have the chance to look at them closely. The curtains retain their bright colours of reds, blues, and greens because the amount of light falling on the curtains is relatively low.

Back of the curtains

Whilst the front of the curtains are beautifully patterned and coloured because people see that side, the back is very dull in comparison. This is purely functional, as if nobody sees the back, there is no reason to spend money on fancy patterns if they will just fade in the sunlight.

Back of the curtains

However, the back of the curtains can be interesting too. We can see the mechanics of how they are tied to the plasterwork. If you look closely, you can see two shades of pale brown. The darker is where part of the textile panelling was replaced during conservation work.

After two days of work, the final result is a great addition to the visual impact of the thousands of books which line the walls of the Billiard Room at Nostell Priory.

Finished Billiard Room curtains

The clean and finished curtains in the Billiard Room. Magnificent! Photo copyright National Trust / Robert Thrift.

Secrets and Suites

On a routine basis in Nostell Priory we examine objects within the collection to clean them, check for pests, damage, and suchlike. This is most often during the winter closed period, when each item gets a deep clean. Doing this means that the house team see the secrets of the furniture, and we get to work with parts of objects which visitors aren’t usually able to view. We thought that we’d share a few of these secrets of the suites with you in today’s blog post.

This false door in Nostell’s library is one of the many secret and false doors within the house, and my personal favourite

Nostell is a very old house, so we have some very old keys to get into some of the rooms! The shapes on some of the oldest keys are really beautiful, and we have to hope that they won’t snap in the locks! The keys help to unlock many of the secrets within the Priory

Nostell’s glorious state bed. This room is usually very dark as we keep the curtains closed to protect the textiles in the room. However, to deep clean the room we opened the curtains and were able to see the bright colours of the bedclothes (shown in the photo below)

Bright pinks and greens on the State Bed cover, in an intricate pattern

The Gillows suite is cleaned with the museum vacuum and gauze

Each individual cushion gets a turn too!

Where can we safely store the cushions whilst the sofas are being cleaned? On another part of the suite, of course!

Pierre Golle’s cabinet in the Tapestry Room, made from (amongst other materials) ebony and marble

Look at the rather grand stately interior of the front compartment of the cabinet, it’s like a mini ballroom!

Look at the angle at which this drawer emerges – Golle must have been a very skilled craftsman

The side panels of the drawers are not as fancy as the front panel, but were still made with great skill

The drawers hide many surprises! We found draughts playing pieces in this chest of drawers in the Tapestry Room

Dusting the inside of the drawers

And there you have it – a few of the secrets within the suites of furniture within Nostell Priory. We hope that you’ve enjoyed having a sneaky look!

Ellie

Textiles and Mould

Housekeeping Training Blog Post No. 3

A key element of National Trust properties are textiles. These come in many forms, from curtains to clothing to wallpaper to furniture to bedclothes to tapestries – the list is endless. So it’s important for us to know how to care for textiles, and equally as important to know how to identify different materials, know of their construction, and how to recognise different types of textile deterioration (for example general wear and tear, pests, light damage, water, inherent structural damage). The photos below show some of the activities that we took part in during the Housekeeping Study Days course.

Examining samples of cotton and linen, learning of their construction and uses

Identifying water damage on bed clothes

Identifying materials and problems to textiles – this photo show silk, pest damage, wool, and in the very bottom right hand corner we looked at an example of inherent deterioration of silk due to the unstoppable oxidisation of the dye

Demonstrating how to clean a chair with a gauze when vacuuming to protect the tapestry material – upholstered furniture is one of the most common items of textiles in a National Trust property

Regular readers of Nostell’s conservation blog will know that we have already had a recent outbreak of mould in our museum room that we had to deal with. The mould session on the housekeeping course was very succinct and informative as to how mould spreads and how it can be cleaned away.

An unusual way of showing how a mould spore spreads, with a knitted mycelium and pipe cleaner fruiting spores!

Equipment used when removing mould, including nitrile gloves, masks and brushes

If you’ve been following our blog you’ll have seen how the housekeeping course covered specific topics that are concerned with country houses, yet the sessions were general enough to be relevant to every National Trust property, and indeed houses in general. The next blog post will see us having a sneaky peek inside Blickling Hall (where the housekeeping study course was held) when the house was closed over the winter period.

Ellie